Why do I have an imagination? Why am I able to think of things like God and Heaven and alien worlds? Why do I spend time painting “pictures” that have no value or purpose other than to be “seen”? Why do I feel, so deeply, the need to communicate? Are these things merely a result of evolution? Or, are they the result of inspiration? God breathed into, or inspired, Adam.
In the book of Exodus, a man named Bezalel is described as “filled with the Holy Spirit”. This resulted in artistic ability over a wide range of crafts. He was inspired to build a place of worship that had its spiritual counterpart in heaven.
Art and Worship: so often working together. I am not thinking merely of Christian Art but of all kinds of artistic expression where humans have infused the most mundane objects with beauty. A piece of clay, shaped for holding water, becomes an amphora. A Shepherd’s whistling for his goats becomes a Bach melody. A simple fireside story becomes an epic poem.
Humans seem to have abilities and desires that have little obvious connection with mere survival. One can find examples of people like Bezalel throughout history and throughout the world. Paintings on the walls of the caves of Lascaux and on the walls of the Louvre Museum. A melody played on a vulture-bone flute, in Germany, 40,000 years ago; Mozart’s “Magic Flute” played on a concert instrument in Vienna’s Musikverein. A horse carved from a mammoth tusk in prehistoric times: a Tang dynasty ceramic horse. A more obvious comparison with Bezalel’s Tabernacle would be the Shaolin Temple in China, or the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia, Solomon’s Temple or St Paul’s Cathedral. Bezalel built a mobile sanctuary for the Lord. The outward appearance was, I think, quite dull but, inside, it was glorious. Perhaps this distinction is worth meditating on?
There is a tension between creativity and worship. My interest in the Arts was discouraged by some Christians: “Creation should be left to God”; “We ought not to make graven images”. Religion can reflect this view or display the opposite. There are religious buildings that are filled with beauty with a view to helping us get a glimpse of heaven. There are places of worship that maintain simplicity in order that we are not distracted from worshipping God. There are sects that celebrate music, art, poetry and architecture to the glory of God: there are sects that allow no more than the human voice to praise him. Either way God is worshipped and “man” is creative.